It’s hard to know when to open up to your kids about family assets and wealth. At some point, you probably plan on leaving them the assets you’ve worked so hard for. As a parent considering the next steps for your private wealth, you may be thinking:
- It’s easier if I just do it all myself, for efficiency
- It’s too soon — my children aren’t ready
- This information could squash my kids’ ambition
- They won’t understand the business side
- This younger generation won’t do the work needed
- I don’t want them to see my lower performing investments
- I want to do estate planning before involving the kids
- I want to involve them, but I’m not sure how or where to start
- It’s none of their business — they can figure it out when I’m gone
These are all very common concerns, but doing nothing can increase the risk of family conflict down the road. Not to worry, though. There is a right time and way to bring your kids into the family wealth conversation. Here are 7 steps that will set you up for success.
1) Wait Until Their Mid-Late 20s and 30s
The first question you’ve probably asked yourself is, “When?” And here’s the simple answer: wait until their mid-to-late 20s and 30s before engaging in deep conversations about what is included in the estate (financial aspects, net worth, asset values), how it’s owned, or how it’s managed. By this time, they will have had more life experiences, and more importantly, they will have fully developed their executive brain functions, which is critical for complex behavioral performance.
2) Start Educating Them Early
Long before you ever mention your family’s wealth and assets, you can start educating your children early. Think about the types of assets they will own or manage someday, whether it’s operating a business, real estate, ranching, minerals, royalties, brokerage, timber — and start hypothetical conversations and scenarios around those. Get their input on an investment you are looking at, put together a checklist for the vacation home, and have them work together as siblings.
You’ll find that your kids will show an interest in different areas, while some may not connect with the assets at all — and that’s okay. These are the stepping stones to the bigger conversations and responsibilities that will come later, as they mature.
3) Make Siblings Work Together As Kids
Owning and managing family wealth and assets means you have to work together as a family. That’s why it’s important to get the kids working together as soon as possible to practice healthy decision-making — which will be a considerable part of their future. Early on, parents can be the referee much easier. Later in life, it’s more of a challenge. Start preparing now by having informal family meetings, or having them work together to make hypothetical decisions about the family vacation home or business.
4) Discuss Sentimental Value of Family Assets
When you’re estate planning, consult your children and family on the sentimental value of family assets — don’t simply assume what may or may not be considered sentimental. Listen to your children’s input on what they may think is a legacy asset: family business, vacation home, ranch, etc. This will affect your estate planning and preparation for them to be owners and a group of intertwined decision-makers.
5) Consider Their Spouses
Before your adult children get married, ask them how they feel about involving their spouses in the family meetings and business affairs. Are there any limitations? If so, what are they? With new family entering the picture and kids possibly in their future, it will be important to establish where they stand on this matter.
6) Know When to Transfer Control of Ownership
Transferring ownership and transferring control are two separate stages of this process. Transferring ownership happens first, through estate planning, while transferring control is the later part — the part that many parents hold onto for far too long. By taking the previous five steps seriously, you’re doing your part as a parent. This way, later in life, you become an advisor to them when they need it.
7) Set Your Priorities and See if They Agree
It’s important for you and your spouse to determine the weight and importance of the following elements:
- Family harmony
- Wealth preservation
- Wealth growth
- Entrepreneurship values
- Philanthropy values
However these land with you, communicate that with your children and see if they agree. This becomes your priority compass for how to plan, communicate, and involve your children as they become adults.
Take Control Early, So they Can Later
Talking to your children about your wealth is not easy, and there are many objections that can lead to procrastination — or doing nothing. Think of your future self (and your children as adults) by reducing the chance for family conflict down the road.